Protests by local villagers, demanding proper rehabilitation and compensation, have resulted in suspension of work for Northeast's first greenfiled airport project at Pakyong near Gangtok in Sikkim.
With the project already suffering time-overruns, Airports Authority of India (AII), which is in charge of constructing the airport, is presently holding high-level talks with the state government of Sikkim, seeking the latter's help to resume works.
The works on the project had started way back in 2009 at estimated cost of Rs 309.46 crore. A senior official from Union civil aviation ministry told Business Standard that though the project was scheduled to be completed in May 2012, it was rescheduled to December 2014 due to delays in land acquisition. He added that since January 2014, protests by local villagers led to suspension of works till October. After AAI intervened and held discussions with agitating villagers and paid part compensation, works restarted in October. Again since January 8, 2015, the works came to a complete halt as villagers took to protests demanding rehabilitation and compensation. The Union civil aviation ministry as well as AII fears cost escalation of the project due to inordinate delays.
"Around 84 per cent of the project work has been completed. However, since January the project work has completely stopped due to protests by villagers. We have now rescheduled the completion date to June 2016," the official said. The airport, spread over 400 hectares, will have facilities for handling ATR-72 type aircrafts.
The Pakyong airport, when completed, will be the first airport of Sikkim. Situated around 30 km south of state capital Gangtok, it is being constructed at an altitude of 4,700 feet from sea level. Presently, the Bagdogra airport of the neighbouring state of West Bengal, which is at a distance of 124 km from Gangok, is the nearest airport for the picturesque Himalayan state.
The proposed greenfield airport at Chiethu near Kohima in Nagaland too has hit a roadblock. The Union civil aviation ministry and AII have realised that the cost involved in earthwork would be huge at the site provided by the state government. The AII has also found that the level of safety would be less in case the airport is constructed at the site at Chiethu. "We have asked the state government to identify a flat site which can be developed for a big airport under IFR conditions of operation. The state government has indentified another site at Ruzaphema. AAI has submitted the pre-feasibility report of the civil aviation ministry. We want few more information from the Nagaland government," added a senior AII official.